I got accepted into graduate school and accepted the graduate instructor position in February 2020, so I had no idea my first year of teaching would be entirely over Zoom and Canvas. Prior to that, I think it was some time during the orientation week when we met virtually with high-ranking people in the English department and they assured us that they were all here to support us and Brian McCuskey said something to the effect of, "This is hard. We know this is really hard." At graduation last week, one of the speakers talked about the pandemic and how it had made us resilient and hopefully able to handle whatever happens to us in the future. And I thought to myself, Yeah, I guess the pandemic has left a lifelong scar on my psyche.
In some ways it didn't seem that hard for me. I didn't have much of a social life to begin with; in February, I was already so lonely that I played stupid and let an MLM scammer talk to me. I didn't lose anyone close to me from the pandemic; my grandmother died during that time, but for unrelated reasons. I didn't have children, I didn't own a business, I was only unemployed for a month, I had reliable internet access, and I had access to the vaccine as soon as I was authorized to get it. The worst part, I think, was living in a state full of robots who wouldn't stop repeating "99.9% survival rate" as if everyone who didn't die was just fine, throwing temper tantrums about perceived violations of their God-given right to breathe on strangers, and doing absolutely pathetic mental gymnastics to lie to themselves and others that their prophet didn't ask them in plain English to get vaccinated. Of course I suffered, but not as much as billions of other people did, so why should I imagine that anyone is interested in hearing about it? The only thing is, it went on for so damn long. The trauma was not immediate and obvious like the trauma from being threatened and yelled at by officer Hayden Nelson of the Logan City Police Department in January 2020, but day after week after month after year it accumulated until this graduation speaker made me take notice of it.
It's left a scar on my entire nation and the entire world too. I wouldn't want to overstate its severity, since we went through a much worse pandemic a hundred years ago and a huge economic depression and a couple of world wars and we turned out f- er, we managed, but its impact will be felt for a long time. Trauma doesn't go away; one just grows around it. And it's not evenly distributed by a long shot. A lot of inequities were laid bare by the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on certain countries and on certain groups within this country, as was the political right wing's contempt for scientists, doctors, teachers, and expendable old people. But I think many of the long-term effects will be positive. We've become more adaptable and learned more efficient ways to do things with technology. Donald Trump lost re-election in large part thanks to his mishandling of the pandemic, which cost God knows how many preventable deaths. The movements against systemic racism and police brutality got an astronomical boost from all the people who were bored and stuck at home and couldn't ignore the latest story of a police officer murdering a black person. Also, I used to not remember the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic, but I'll never have that problem again.
It will be interesting to see what happens when the young children who have fallen behind in education and social development come of age. Again, there are huge socioeconomic and racial disparities in the severity of these problems, but if they've all fallen behind to an extent, I can hope that they won't be penalized in the long run for being unable to reach an entirely artificial educational standard and that they won't bully or shun each other for being socially awkward. Like the speaker said, I think they and all of us have become more resilient for whatever fresh hells await us in the future - and await us they do, because if I've learned one thing from studying history, it's that the "good old days" are BS and this world has always been a dumpster fire.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.